Could the end of leather in fashion be near? With the help of an innovative Oxford University graduate student, animal textiles like leather may be permanently replaced with more sustainable vegan options. Postgraduate student Gabriel Moreno recently developed an alternative leather sourced from the Columbian fique plant and natural rubber latex. Moreno and his father Alex founded an eco-friendly textile company named Fiquetex that manufactures sustainable, biodegradable, and renewable leathers and fabrics. Moreno developed succulent leather as an alternative to environmentally damaging practices that are often found in the fashion industry.

The family company released sustainable textile alternative Fique fabrics following five years of research and design. The father-son duo aims to cut down on the use of plastic and synthetic leather by sourcing all the materials from this succulent. The Fique fabric only uses 10 percent of the amount of energy used to manufacture nylon. The company’s success proves the potential of this sustainable method of developing leather: The material is meant to biodegrade in 100 days when buried, providing an eco-friendly option that has not yet been rivaled.

“I’ve always been passionate about how we can live more sustainably today to secure a healthier and greener future for the planet,” Moreno said. “Companies from H&M to Forest Green Rovers football club are looking for new sustainable alternatives. Countries such as China and Canada are banning single-use plastics and we have the environmentally friendly and economical solution the world needs.”

Gabriel Moreno currently attends Oxford, studying Latin American economics. He recently was awarded the entrepreneurship prize at the university’s “All Innovate” competition, boosting the start-up and accelerating the momentum of Fique fabrics. The alternative fabric is set to be available in July for worldwide purchase.

In 2016, Alex Moreno won third place in the National Award of the Colombian Inventor. Since then, he and his son successfully achieved their patenting and successfully created a manufacturing process that will make the textiles available to companies internationally. Gabriel Moren worked with the Royal Academy of Engineering in London to complete the process, and with a solidified method, the family brand will enter the fashion market, posing a challenge to the controversial established leather industry.

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